Man in serious condition after drag-racing boat crash on Columbia River

 Man in serious condition after drag-racing boat crash on Columbia River

POSTED: Sunday, June 17, 2012 - 4:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, June 17, 2012 - 4:04pm

A racing boat on the Columbia River crashed during a practice run, and then flipped several times, ejecting the boat operator by parachute Thursday afternoon.

Trevor Olsen, the racing boat operator, suffered critical injuries, Multnomah County deputies said, but his condition was improving Friday morning.

Sgt. Travis Gullberg said the boat is at the bottom of the river, and that it likely won't be pulled out until sometime Friday.

The drag-racing boat that crashed is designed to travel high speeds in short distances. Olsen's father said his son has been racing boats since he was a child, and that he was practicing for a race scheduled on Dexter Reservoir this weekend.

Ron Pardue, a witness, said the crash happened just as the driver hit the throttle.

"He it turned it on, started it up river and then it flipped up like this and flipped over, then it flipped him out," Pardue said. "He went out of the water because he's got a parachute on. And the boat went down like this and I understand the motor hit him in his back."

As the boat flipped, Olsen was ejected by parachute as designed. Two support boats and the people inside immediately recovered Olsen, who is 31 years old.

River patrol staff from the sheriff's office are investigating the high-speed crash. Initially, investigators said the boat malfunctioned early in the practice, but now they say a number of factors may have played a role in the crash.

There are designated spots for boat racing on the Columbia River. The crash happened in the South Channel of the river parallel to the 18500 block of Northeast Marine Drive.

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